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The Benefits of Probiotics for Cats

Cat eating out of a red bowl

Digestive upset can leave desperate cat owners looking for a safe and effective solution. Probiotics for cats can alleviate problems like this, but they have other benefits as well.

Purina veterinarian Dr. Emily Cross explains how probiotics for cats work, what benefits they offer and more.

What are Probiotics & How Do They Work?

Probiotics are live, beneficial bacteria and promote balance in the intestines. 

The intestines contain billions of bacteria that make up the microbiome. An imbalance in the microbiome can cause digestive upset. 

“Probiotics decrease the pH in the gut and help the good gut bacteria thrive,” says Dr. Cross. 

Prebiotics vs. Probiotics: How are They Different?

It’s easy to confuse prebiotics and probiotics because they sound and look similar, but they serve different purposes when fed to cats and dogs. 

“Probiotics are live bacteria fed to an animal to have a positive effect. Prebiotics are not live bacteria, but rather specific fiber sources you feed to encourage the growth of a cat’s own beneficial bacteria,” says Dr. Cross. 

Are there Benefits of Probiotics for Cats?

There are several different options when it comes to probiotics for cats. Some probiotics come in the form of a supplement. Others are added to cat food to provide benefits through diet. 

Regardless of the form, “It’s important to choose the right probiotic(s) for the specific situation you’re dealing with,” Dr. Cross says. “Some probiotics are good for digestive health or resolving digestive upset. Some help support the immune system, while others are anti-inflammatory.”

Are There Different Types of Probiotics for Cats?

There are several different options when it comes to probiotics for cats. Some probiotics come in the form of a supplement. Others are added to cat food to provide benefits through diet. 

Regardless of the form, “It’s important to choose the right probiotic(s) for the specific situation you’re dealing with,” Dr. Cross says. “Some probiotics are good for digestive health or resolving digestive upset. Some help support the immune system, while others are anti-inflammatory.”

What are the Benefits of Probiotics for Cats?

As Dr. Cross mentioned, probiotics help the good gut bacteria thrive. Probiotics can also support a cat’s immune health. 

“Most of our immune system is located in the digestive tract, giving the good bacteria plenty of opportunities to interact with immune cells and support immune health,” she says.

When to Give Cats Probiotics

Whether you’ve introduced a new family member to your home (human or four-legged) or you need to board your cat while you’re away, changes to your cat’s environment cause stress, which can lead to an intestinal imbalance.

Kittens and senior cats are also more susceptible to these imbalances, and antibiotics can also leave cats vulnerable. 

If you notice a change in your cat’s feces, probiotics may help. Dr. Cross uses probiotics in her practice daily, most often to treat digestive upset. 

In addition to probiotics for specific needs, she also recommends probiotic cat foods such as Purina Pro Plan SAVOR dry cat food to her patients. “Their probiotic in the diet proactively helps to maintain a healthy digestive tract,” she says.

How Long Does it Take Probiotics for Cats to Work?

It can take anywhere from a day or two to several weeks to see results from probiotics in cats. “It depends on the specific probiotic and what we’re trying to manage,” says Dr. Cross. 

When addressing digestive upset with a product like FortiFlora, “we’re looking for improvement within a few days,” she says. For immune health, your pet should experience a positive impact in about four weeks.

Probiotics Aren’t Right for Every Cat

Although probiotics offer numerous benefits, they aren’t suitable for every cat or every circumstance. 

It may be counter-indicated to use a probiotic in some circumstances, like cats with a significantly compromised GI tract or those undergoing treatments like chemotherapy, in which case, the decision to start probiotics should be made with the veterinarian’s advice. Also, if your cat is not feeling well, you should always consult with your veterinarian.

“Hopefully we’ll have an expanding knowledge of what probiotics can do and have other products in the future that we could use for a variety of different health issues,” she says.

Are Human Probiotics Safe for Cats?

Many people have experienced the benefits of probiotics for themselves and want their cats to benefit, too. 

You can’t give the same probiotics you’re taking to your cat, however. “An over-the-counter supplement recommended for human use that a pet owner considers giving to their dog or cat would concern me,” says Dr. Cross. “I only recommend probiotics that have been shown to be safe for dogs and cats and have a positive health effect.”

What about products like yogurt, which often contain active cultures? Dr. Cross advises to steer clear because “Safety and efficacy have not been shown for yogurt products in dogs and cats, and with the exception of a few products out there, most yogurts do not guarantee live bacteria numbers. 

“Cats and dogs can also be sensitive to the amount of dairy in yogurt. It’s important to use a product that has in some way shown you that it has an efficacious amount of probiotic bacteria, that they remain alive on the shelf and also that they can survive down to the lower GI tract where they have their biggest impact.”

Try Probiotics for Cats

“We’re just beginning to scratch the surface of what probiotics can do for us in veterinary medicine and we’re just beginning to understand the importance of the intestinal microbiome. 

“It’s an exciting area that is now getting a lot more attention. I am hopeful we will have even more understanding of what probiotics can do in the near future,” says Dr. Cross. 

Although probiotics aren’t suitable for every issue or situation, Purina offers a variety of dietary and supplemental options to meet your cat’s needs. Work with your veterinarian to choose the right probiotic for your cat. Explore all our probiotic cat food formulas. 
 

 

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